Science is listening to the vibrations of stars to study their life cycles, and the results fit right in with classic science-fiction shows.
Science has uncovered a great many wondrous things, some on purpose and some accidentally. For example, Canada’s MOST and France’s CoRoT missions have been using space telescopes to monitor the vibrations, or “heartbeats”, of distant stars. Usually, this would simply help us better understand the life cycle of stars, something we’ve covered at length visually. But there is one cool thing that only audio can do: When shifted into range of human hearing, these vibrations sound like they’d fit remarkably well with the original Star Trek.
“These stars are literally ringing, like giant gaseous bells,” said Jaymie Matthews, astronomy professor from the University of British Columbia. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to wonder about that.”
According to recently published findings in Science magazine, a star’s oscillations have lots to say about a star’s physical properties and life cycle. Thankfully, MOST was able to pick up these vibrations using a suitcase-sized space telescope created in 2003, and have released a few clips to the public. Matthews likens the vibrations of young stars to children, which “spin rapidly and have lots of temper tantrums”. Older stars are much calmer by comparison. Our own sun’s vibrations show it to be middle-aged, although listening to distant stars gives an idea of how it might once have behaved.
I’d say this is further evidence that Star Trek predicted the future, although it’s not clear how much farther this line of research will go. The Canadian Space Agency ended the MOST mission in April, but Matthews is considering crowdsourcing and private investments to keep things running.
If Matthews is successful and the project continues, maybe we’ll hear lightsabers activating among the stars next. Who knows?